Sometimes, when I wake up on Monday mornings and feel a little stressed about my upcoming week, afraid I won’t be convincing during a presentation, or not sure about taking on some project that is a little out of my comfort zone, I wish I had a little more psychopathic traits.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I wish I was an emotionless serial killer, just that it would be nice to have a little more of some of the traits they share that are actually coveted in today’s society.
When someone hears the word psychopath, they usually think of Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Dahmer or Luka Magnotta instead of a successful CEO, lawyer, or police officer. However, all of these people share similar traits to some degree. What most people don’t realize is that there is a continuum along the traits associated to psychopathy that separate the high functioning successful psychopaths (CEO, lawyer, police officer, etc.) from the less functioning ones (criminals).
In the book The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success by Kevin Dutton, the myth that all psychopaths are dangerous is debunked. In fact, the case is made that they can actually be high achieving successful people.
Some of the traits that are conducive to success include fearless dominance, the ability to focus on the here and now, taking decisions coolly and rationally under pressure, taking action immediately, and of course being extremely engaging, charming and intelligent.
Although some would argue, I like to think I already possess the last three traits (there’s always room to go higher up the continuum). Narcissism aside, there is no denying that most of these traits offer value and can facilitate success attaining goals and dealing with difficult situations. Since they are not emotionally rattled easily, they are able to remain calm in situations that would probably cause the average person to feel overwhelmed. Being able to remain emotionally neutral in potentially life threatening situations while problem solving are qualities you would want every emergency first responder to have.
I realize that most of these examples involve extreme situations that require a high level of mindfulness, confidence and leadership. These qualities might not be what usually comes to mind when a conversation about psychopaths arise but they are indeed present in these individuals. It is no wonder then, that a subset of psychopaths are able to lead successful lives and praised for their accomplishments.
When I think about wanting more of some of those qualities, it’s not that I want to have extreme levels of them. It would be nice though, to have just enough to get through certain stressful situations (or just preparing for another work week) calmly and confidently. Like most people, these qualities don’t come too easily for me but the good news is that it is possible to increase our proficiency of them. That being the case, I’ll just keep on working on my stress management and confidence by trying to be as prepared as possible for the week to come.